When Ori Menashe was eight, his parents nicknamed him “Little Gourmet.” Years later, as head chef at Bestia— the always-packed restaurant in downtown Los Angeles—Menashe has taken an early fascination with fine dining to amazing heights. His cooking has received rave reviews from critics like Jonathan Gold for the “Southern California meets authentic Italian” spirit of Bestia’s pizzas, pastas, and house-cured meats program with over 60 different forms of charcuterie. Think antipasti plates like persimmon salad with whipped burrata, scarlet frill, pea tendrils, pickled shallots, and aged balsamic. As summer kicks into high gear, we had the honor of conversing with Chef Menashe about his approach to grilling, in an interview that took place soon after he was announced as one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2015.
You were just named as a Best New Chef for 2015 by Food and Wine Magazine and will be on the cover of the July issue. Congratulations! What, if any, effect will this distinction have on you moving forward?
Thank you. It has been an honor to be nominated. I think there will be more expectations with my cooking. Because of those expectations, I will push myself to become better.
What role does grilling play in the Bestia kitchen?
Grilling has a large role at Bestia. All of our protein entrees are grilled. Grilling adds a great smoked element to the proteins and vegetables. At Bestia we try to be as authentic as possible by creating flavors that were made in the original traditional style of cooking.
Your Grilled Whole Branzino and Grilled Sardines have received great reviews. What are some other grilled items on your menu? Do you grill any surprising or unexpected fish, meats or vegetables?
We also grill our pork porterhouse, pork tomahawk chop, rib eye steak, skirt steak, meatballs, Chinese long beans, sprouting broccoli, and wild fennel.
Do you have a couple of quick tips for home cooks that want to refine their grilling technique on the backyard grill?
If you are grilling at home, make sure to use charcoal and not gas. You should also let your meat rest after cooking. Slightly undercook the meat because while it is resting the hot temperatures from the grill will carry over. Season your meats well and cook with confidence.
How do you incorporate EVOO into grilled dishes?
We use oil on the proteins so the dry rubs stick and cook well. Also, adding a touch of extra virgin olive oil when finishing proteins gives it an extra layer of flavor. In addition to the proteins, we use EVOO for a lot of our marinades and vinaigrettes, which we use for finishing our fish.